Product Descriptions: How to Scale the Details | Indix



Indix Product Descriptions – The Details

Last week, we announced the immediate availability of Indix Standardized Attributes and Indix Product Descriptions (in partnership with Narrative Science). In a previous post this week, we discussed how we attacked the scale problem of standardizing product attributes to make sense of the crazy product information “soup” that’s found in the wild. In this post, we’ll look at how standardized attributes become product descriptions.

A Problem of Scale

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Google loves unique content. The better and more relevant your content, the better you’ll rank, which should lead to traffic and conversions (read: $$$). Unique product descriptions come in at #6 in our 9 steps to perfect product page SEO list, and good product descriptions have been shown to increase conversion rates by over 30% (we’ve seen 30%, 78%, and even over 100% in our research).

That said, product descriptions can be difficult to produce. Each description takes a human product description writer approximately an hour to research and produce. This is fine if you’re a boutique ecommerce site with only a thousand or two products, but what happens when you have hundreds of thousands or millions of products?

Looking at the monetary investment alone, producing product descriptions at scale is daunting at best. If you’re trying to hire and use US-based description writers, you’ll shell out approximately $14 per description. If you hire and use offshore talent, your price tag will be closer to $5 per description. For your first few tens of thousands of products (your “head products”), this seems reasonable. If you need 10,000 descriptions, you’ll pay $140,000 for US talent or $50,000 for offshore. It’s not a small price tag, but it’s not undoable.

What happens when you get past your head products, however? Products that haven’t been performing thus far or that you just don’t know enough about to want to invest in them make that price tag start looking steep. Outsourcing the tail products to some of the vendors out there might seem like a good idea (especially since they include setup and QA), but our research has shown that vendors charge $6.99-$15.00 per description for ~20,000 products at 150 words or less. They may write descriptions faster and keep you from having to staff up for your long tail, but they’re certainly not cheaper. (Our research found that the average cost is $11 per description.)

What about time? Assuming a 2,087-hour work year, 10,000 descriptions will take nearly five person-years to produce if your writers do literally nothing else with their working time (Meetings? Nope. Email? Ha. Training? HAHAHA.). Clearly, you’ll miss quite a few product lifecycles by employing only one human being, so you’ll need ~10 people to hit six months, 20 for three months, etc. Like the monetary investment, the time investment makes sense for your head products, but the investment and overhead for that many human beings starts getting prohibitive fast.

Some retailers have attempted to get around these monumental time and money objects by using the product descriptions that brands provide with the products. This certainly leads to a richer product detail page experience that will help conversions, but lack of unique content at a higher category level doesn’t help as much with SEO as having a unique product description.

Looking at all of this, we realized that we needed to help our customers generate unique product descriptions at scale. But how? We’re a big data company, and scaling paragraphs of text wasn’t in our wheelhouse. We had product information to spare, but no way of bridging the gap to great descriptions.

A Match Made in Heaven

Enter Narrative Science. They had the opposite problem with solving their customers’ needs for product descriptions: Their advanced natural language generation (NLG) technology could create unique descriptions for any product if they had information about the product itself. Sadly, their customers didn’t necessarily have the product attributes that Narrative Science needed to produce these descriptions.

Indix had product attributes without NLG. Narrative Science had NLG without product attributes. Forming a partnership was, frankly, a no-brainer.

How it Works

In our post going into more detail about Indix Standardized Attributes, we discussed how we went from the messy “soup” of non-standardized attributes to the organized and vastly more useful collections of standardized attributes, like these for a window box planter:

Narrative Science takes this set of standardized attributes and combines them with a tone document (for brand voice) and a lot of NLG “magic” from their Quill platform and produces an SEO-optimized, customer-friendly product description.  This process can produce up to 1,000,000 product descriptions in eight weeks, and is the fraction of the cost of employing human beings to do it (we start at $4/record with volume discounts).

Lazy Hill Farm Rectangular Cedar Window Box Planter

“Perfect for avid gardeners, the Good Directions, Inc. Lazy Hill Farm Rectangular Cedar Window Box Planter in Natural provides a comfortable home for fresh flowers and plants. Made from beautiful cedar complete with a white finish, the planter is sturdy enough for long-term use and looks lovely hanging from a wall or window sill. Measuring 72” long by 7” wide by 6” high, this unique planter provides plenty of space to display decorative outdoor greens. Equipped with a 1 year general warranty. Assembly required.”


Here are a few more examples of these NLG descriptions produced by Narrative Science from Indix Standardized Attributes:

BugsAway Baja Sur Shirt

“Whether a casual day at the office or a sunny weekend getaway, the Men’s Exofficio BugsAway Baja Sur Shirt is a versatile button-down top that pairs well with trousers, jeans or even shorts. Featuring a regular fit with classic long sleeves, this 2XL shirt in Riviera is the perfect pop of color for any guy’s closet. Made from a blend of 55% cotton and 45% polyester, this shirt is soft, comfortable and easy to clean.”


Air King SFT3012 Duct Cover Professional Series Accessory

“The Air King SFT3012 Duct Cover Professional Series Accessory is a stylish and practical addition to your range. Its stainless steel construction is both chic and timeless and instantly polishes the look of any kitchen. This high-performance duct cover measures 12” high and 30” wide and is backed by a 1 year general warranty on parts. Made in the USA.”


Baxton Studio SDM-2220-PSTL Athens Modern Bar Stool

“For a contemporary twist to your kitchen or bar, the Baxton Studio SDM-2220-PSTL Athens Modern Bar Stool in black is a practical and stylish seating solution. Featuring a blend of black, walnut and chrome accents, this high-quality and sleek bar stool goes well with many different types of décor. This item measures 15” wide by 19” deep by 33” high and weighs 21 pounds, making it easy to move and compatible with a wide range of spaces. Made in China.”


For more information from Narrative Science and Indix about how we came together to quickly produce cost-efficient, SEO-optimized product descriptions, check out the Narrative Science Automated Descriptions White Paper and sign up for our upcoming webinar on May 17, 2017.

Also published on Medium.

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